FI_Outside Sales: The Complete Guide for 2018

Outside Sales: The Complete Guide for 2019

Outfit pressed and hair coiffed, it’s time to set out into the field to meet with prospective clients. Being the face of the product/service makes the role of an outside salesperson an important one. This face-to-face interaction is what sets outside sales apart from their inside selling counterparts.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll talk you through everything you need to know about the world that is Outside Sales.

Table of Contents

What is Outside Sales?
Inside Sales vs. Outside Sales
What Does an Outside Sales Rep Do?
Most Important Skills for Outside Sales Reps
Average Outside Sales Rep Salaries
How to Hire Top Performing Outside Sales Professionals
Outside Sales Interview Question
6-Step Guide to Building a Winning Outside Sales Strategy
Inside and Outside Sales Teams Can Work Together
Outside Sales Training Resources
Outside Sales Tools

What is Outside Sales?

Investopia defines outside sales as “the sale of products or services by sales personnel who go out into the field to meet with prospective customers. Outside sales professionals tend to work autonomously outside a formal office and formal team environment. They travel to meet customers face-to-face, as well as to maintain relationships with existing customers.”
Outside means exactly that… outside. An outside salesperson is spending the majority of his or her time out in the elements meeting people in person.

Inside Sales vs. Outside Sales

How does outside sales compare with inside sales? The ultimate objective is the same… to close the deal, of course. However, the way it is done between the two have some significant differences.  

When looking at outside sales, you’re working autonomously most of the time. The area around you is your “office” – in that you meet with people all over the place – and you spend quite a bit of time driving around in your car.  

With inside sales, you are more likely to be in a team environment in an office setting working set hours, depending on the industry you are in. You will likely make many more contacts with prospects in customers in a day since you are not spending any time driving around to an appointment.  

It is important to note that while inside sales is being adopted more and more, outside sales is still a big driver in achieving sales quotas.  A top performing sales strategy will include elements of both inside and outside sales strategy.

What Does an Outside Sales Rep Do?

A day in the life of a sales rep can be broken up in the following ways: 

Prospecting For Leads

According to a poll done by, when salespeople were asked what they struggle with the most, 42% said it was prospecting.  It doesn’t matter how good you are at selling, if you have nobody to talk to, that skill won’t matter.  

Below, we will discuss various methods and tools one can use to aide in sales prospecting success. 

Tools that you can use to aid in prospecting:

Build a targeted prospect list:

– SPOTIO’s Lead Machine

Search for emails:


Sales territory mapping. How many people that are a prospect for your product live or operate a business in a given area? How close together are they? How many of them are near an existing customer that you could introduce yourself to in case your appointment cancels or ends sooner than you thought? This is where sales territory mapping comes in.

As I mentioned before, spending too much time in your car zig-zagging across town all day will minimize the efficiency of the time you spend out in the field. Knowing where to go, with minimal travel between engagements, is a great way to maximize your time and energy during that day.

Customer mapping. Where are all your customers located? Is it a concentrated area or is it spread out all over the place? Where are they in relation to prospects you’d like to meet? When you take the time to do this, it is a very enlightening thing. You may find out that you haven’t penetrated a desired market nearly as much as you would like to. Maybe you’ll see that you are into an area more than you would like to be, and there are more profitable markets to pursue. Knowing your footprint from past deals, and how it relates to where you would like to go is a vital part of managing your existing business as you seek to grow it. 

With field sales software tools (such as SPOTIO), this process is automated. The whole premise of SPOTIO is to drop pins on properties located on a map so that you have a physical representation of a desired territory. It’s much easier to actually see on a map exactly where a desired property is located rather than staring at unorganized data on a spreadsheet or even a handwritten list. Having this level or organization at your fingertips is one of the main benefits of using field sales software.

Appointment setting.  Okay, so you have the names. Now it’s time to set appointments with them. One of the most important skills a salesperson can invest time in would be what to say, whether it be in person or on the phone,  I’m a firm believer in scripting. Why? Because using a well thought out script will eliminate a robotic, bumpy, and awkward presentation that lacks a connection to the prospect.  

Here is an example call script:

Call Script Graphic

Sales presentation. Data shows 75% of sales presentations leave prospects feeling like the salesperson just didn’t get it. Obviously, this will have a negative impact on your chances of closing that deal.  We want the prospect to not only feel that we “got it”, but that we are the answer to their situation. What are some things that can be done to make this a better part of your overall process? The article referenced above gives some great tips.

Make sure the presentation comes after a thorough discovery. It’s self-defeating to make a pitch when you haven’t gotten the answers to all the pertinent questions in order to MAKE that pitch to begin with.  It’s possible that you are either the perfect answer to the problem the prospect has, or that you are the last solution they need to look at – this will be determined when you ask the right questions to determine if a presentation is even warranted.

Only present solutions to your prospect’s challenges. How annoying is it when someone presents a recommendation that doesn’t meet the challenges at hand?  Stick to the issues at hand and focus on solving them. 


Don’t present “one last thing.” Focus on the issues at hand directly, and handle them.  


Use case studies. Many presentations can be dry, so using real-life situations where you solved the same struggle(s) that the current prospect is facing will go a long way to build your credibility in the room.

The 60-second rule. Don’t dominate the conversation. In order to maximize your chances of closing the deal, it needs to be an interactive presentation. Never talk for more than 60 seconds without an interruption. Ask for questions, etc. Pull them in.

Use feedback loops. This is how you solve the 60-second rule. Asking “Does that make sense?” or “Are we on the same page?” will prompt responses that will keep the prospect engaged.

If you lose them, stop. When/if you feel like you’re starting to lose your prospect, there is nothing wrong with just stopping and mentioning that to them, backing up and seeing where you missed it and fixing that to move forward.  The 60 Second Rule

Keep it as short as possible. Getting off track will cost more sales than it will land. Stick to the points at hand. If you do anything other than present a solution to the problems that the prospect has, you’re going to lose them more often.

Clear and scheduled next steps. One-call closes are pretty old-school anymore. Most of the time, there are going to be next steps before you can close the deal. Make sure they are clearly defined, and most importantly SCHEDULED so that nothing is lost due to ambiguity here.

Lead management. How do you keep track of all the prospects that you have? At any given time, your “sales funnel” can range from hundreds of leads to thousands.  When someone says “call me in a month” or anything else that isn’t leading to a sale right now, how do you store them? What do you do to make sure you don’t forget to call that client again in a month? There is a saying that “not all leads are created equal”, and it is very true. Due to the many categories that leads can fall into, it’s very important for a salesperson to organize his or her leads in a way so that you are spending your time appropriately with the right leads at the right time(s).

The process and method of lead management is what drives the success of a sales team. Capturing specific details about each prospect quickly and efficiently, and then being able to use this data to increase productivity and sales is the goal of SPOTIO’s lead management software.

Sales reporting, or as I like to call it, keeping score. There are so many activities that salespeople engage in, and most of them are important. How do you know if you’re effective enough at what you do? What are the most important metrics to keep track of so that you can keep everything else in line? Here are some of the most vital metrics you should be privy to:

– Team performance in relation to your sales funnel
– Data from custom statuses and fields based on KPIs
– Team performance and best time and day to knock
– Number of attempts it takes to establish contacts, get leads and make sales

Sales Dashboards provide real-time insights that identify exactly where each individual team member needs assistance in your sales process. You will be able to spot train reps on the areas where they need the most assistance to be successful.

Most Important Skills for Outside Sales Reps

If you are thinking about Outside Sales as a career path, it’s probably a good idea to assess yourself and see if you possess the skills that employers are looking for. I’m certain that employers will debate heavily as to what the most important skills are, so this isn’t an all-inclusive list. However, I doubt that many would doubt that any of the following skills would be very useful, if not vital.  

I know this sounds obvious, but this is a big one. Have you ever asked a salesperson a question on a product and they didn’t know the answer? Annoying, wasn’t it? You must be a subject matter expert when it comes to whatever you are selling. You need to be able to answer any questions that come your way, and in a confident manner. If you aren’t confident in the answer you are giving, then your prospect may have a hard time being confident in you.

Do your research.  In other words, know who you are dealing with. When you make your approach and have those initial contacts, being able to talk about their company shows that you are a professional that is truly interested in their business. It will also help you avoid making a contact with a prospect/company that is not a good fit.

Know your metrics.  It’s hard to ever know if you’re hitting an objective if you don’t know what it takes to get there.

Sales Metrics You Need To Know To Improve Sales Performance

Contact Rate: the number of decision makers (DM’s) a rep speaks with.


Lead Rate: the number of leads generated from conversations.

Close Rate: the number of closed-won opportunities from the number of leads.

Average Revenue per Sale: the average amount of revenue a rep generates for each sale made.

Rate of Follow-up Contact: number of opportunities with at least 1 follow-up activity recorded.

Be organized – all the way through.  

The person that is planned spends less time doing unproductive activities and also has contingencies in place to make the unplanned situation productive anyway.  

The first impression.  

When someone opens a door you knock on, or a decision maker in a business takes a minute to shake your hand, you have a very short period to win another several minutes with that person. Your smile, the handshake, what you say, how you say it; all these things have a major impact on whether you can hope to turn this prospect into a client.

Handling rejection.  

You must have the ability to “shake it off”, don’t take it personally, and move on to the next one with the same smile on your face as before. If you’re down, the person interacting with you will sense that.

Know when to move on.  

Any individual you meet with will fall into one of 3 categories:  they will right now, they will buy later, or they will never buy. Your job is to figure out which one they are 

and do it as soon as possible. The sooner you can figure out what kind of person you are dealing with, the sooner you can either take them to the next step or move on to the next prospect.

Qualifying the prospect.  

This is the process of asking very deep, meaningful questions to determine if you are able to meet the challenge(s) your prospect if facing, and how to do so.

Close the deal.  

This is where you are putting all the information you gathered together and forming the solution to your prospect’s need(s) and asking for her business.     

Answering objections.  

Most objections at the forefront aren’t the real objection, but a “smokescreen.” Being skilled at answering objections is vital to keeping a valid sale alive.

Average Outside Sales Salary

The range of salaries for outside sales is all over the board. If you look at it as more of a “big picture”, with all industries included, you will see a range of $31,000 to a little over $92,000. That range includes salary, bonus, profit sharing, and commission. As you can imagine, the numbers will vary quite a bit from industry to industry.  

The average life insurance agent makes $34,229 per year.  The average automobile salesperson makes $38,801.Pharmaceutical salespeople average just short of $70,000. gives a list of sales jobs that are the highest paying… from Consulting Sales ($120k – $150k base salaries plus commissions to Digital Media Sales ($170k – $180k base salaries plus commissions), they list the higher end of this spectrum.

Some people have chosen their path in sales strictly because of the highest earnings potential. Others have gone with what they are passionate about and that drives them to be a top performer and blow past the average for his or her field.  

How to Hire Top-Performing Outside Sales Professionals

Hiring Landscape Graphic

Plain and simple, hiring the right people is hard. And expensive. It costs as much as 1.5–2.0 times of the employee’s annual salary to replace them and takes an average of 4 months to hire their replacement. This makes having a bulletproof hiring strategy absolutely essential. So, how do you go about finding, hiring, and retaining your ideal candidates?

The job description.  

Personally, I believe that a lot of thought should go into this document that is taken for granted a lot of times. Remember, you want to attract the best possible fit for that job. So, this job description should describe that person. How do you do that? What skills would that person have? What would be his/her responsibilities? What kind of experience and qualifications would he or she have?

1. Skills – what kind of skills would your superstar possess?

New business development
Customer relations
Account management

2. Responsibilities – what would this person be able to handle?

Attending trade shows to create new leads and contact existing clients
Keep on top of industry trends to ID opportunities for the company to grow
Collaborate with the management team to improve marketing techniques and grow the company’s presence in the existing and desired markets

3. Experiences and Qualifications

Familiarity with a CRM
“X” amount of years’ experience
Proven track record of exceeding sales quotas
Industry-relevant certifications
Sales awards
College education

Try to avoid ambiguity.  

Be very specific about who your company is, what it does, and why. It’s hard for a salesperson to sell something if they don’t believe in it. If you’re worried that being specific might scare away a superstar, think of it like this: chances are that he or she wouldn’t have been a superstar with you. Remember, you want the right person to come to you. That means you won’t have to interview 20 people to hire the “perfect” one… maybe you can cut that down to 3-5. Think of how much time and energy you just saved yourself or your HR team in interviewing people that aren’t the right fit from the start?

Outside Sales Interview Questions

Okay, you have figured out the profile of who you want to hire. You have created an amazing job description that has gotten some dynamite applicants to contact you for an interview. What kind of questions should you ask to sift through the pool of great candidates and find “the one”? If you focus on 3 main areas – personality, skills, and performance – you can do that very well. Some examples might be:

1. Personality Questions   

What drives you to succeed?
What are you looking forward to in this role?
What would you like to achieve in the next 3-5 years?
In an ideal world, how would you collaborate with your team members?
How do you prefer to work with your sales manager?
-What is your optimal sales environment?
-How do you see yourself fitting with our company and this team?

2. Skills Questions

Would you rather call or email prospects?  Why?
How do you deal with rejection?
What is your closing percentage?
How do you get around the gatekeeper when you make a call on a prospect?
When do you decide to walk away from a prospect?
Does social media play a role in your sales process?  If so, how?
How do you stay up-to-date with industry trends?  What specific resources do you reference? 
What is your negotiation style?

3. Performance Questions

Tell me about a time when you were in a competition to win a prospect’s business that you ultimately won.  What caused that to happen?
Tell me about a time when you were dealing with a very hard-to-convince prospect that you won over.  How did you do that?
When you lose a deal, what is the most common reason why?
Tell me about a time that you didn’t hit your performance objective.  What caused you to fail and what did you do to make sure it didn’t happen again?
Tell me about the achievement you are most proud of in your career thus far.
What is the length of your current sales cycle?

How often do you beat your quota?

6-Step Guide to Building a Winning Outside Sales Strategy

Any company that has a sales division wants that wing of their corporation to thrive. After all, they are responsible for selling the products that they make to the marketplace, right? So, how do you build a sales division that doesn’t just “win”, but will thrive? Here are what I think are 6 steps that will help in this area.

1. Identify the team that you need.  

Outside vs. inside team – Do you need an outside sales team?  Inside sales team? Both?
Build a profile of the people you want in each role that you’re looking for.

2. Customize your recruiting process – and make it repeatable.  

Build the job description.
Identify sourcing tools.
Who does what part of your process?
What does the interview look like?

3. Make sure the sales managers are the right ones.  

Build profiles.

An outside sales manager will have different characteristics than an inside sales manager. Using the same person for both isn’t going to always be the best option available.
– Can they lead people?  
– If they were successful as a salesperson, can he/she clone themselves? MUST be able to train people.

4. Get with the times.  In other words, modernize your sales process and tools as much as you can. Many companies will cut corners here, and cite costs as the reason. This approach is narrow minded due to the costs on the back end. What productivity is lost when the salespeople are spending more time in the office doing things they shouldn’t have to do because their tools are out of date instead of being out there doing what they do best – selling?  

CRM system.
Tracking software.
Assign proper sales territories.
Planning and organization software.
Enable mobile updates.
Personalized dashboards.

5. Make sure that your Marketing department is aligned with your sales department.  

Qualify leads with inbound marketing.
Create lead nurturing campaigns.
Track leads through the sales cycle.

6. Rewards.  

Create a multi-tiered incentive structure.

Research shows that a multi-tiered incentive plan will drive production.
Use the salespeople to help develop it.
Make sure to include a way to motivate the ones that fall behind.

Inside and Outside Sales Teams Can Work Together

In my experience with an organization that uses both inside and outside sales teams, it has been an “us vs. them” mentality. And most of the time, that mentality starts from the top. If the executive team doesn’t respect and see the need to work together to be mutually beneficial, then it isn’t likely that the sales teams themselves will either. So, it starts there; make sure the executive team is in alignment so they can model that behavior to their respective teams and spearhead efforts in working together.

Visibility is also a key. The entire team needs to know what the other members of the team are doing. Communication plays a big role here. Are the marketing people actively developing leads in one of the field salesperson’s territory? He or she should know about it. Is that salesperson following up with those leads in a timely fashion? The marketing people should know about that. There are systems in place that can help everyone see that, and with the proper accountability in place, this can make things very transparent to everyone involved.

Ultimately, utilizing this approach will end up causing your entire sales team to build a strong relationship among each other, just like they do, hopefully, with their prospects and clients.  

Outside Sales Training Resources

Any true professional should continually be a student of their field; finding ways to get better at what she does. The sales profession is no different. Phone skills, general prospecting skills, fact-finding, closing technique, asking for referrals, marketing as a whole, client retention… these are all areas that a salesperson should continue to get better.  

The following are some resources to help develop those skills:

    1. Wilson Learning focuses offers resources and programs for sales, leadership and workforce development. For sales, they offer programs on foundational and strategic selling, along with consulting, sales management, and sales support and service.  
    2. Customer Centric Selling offers sales training through training workshops around the globe. Their focus is on a buyer-driven sales process.
    3. Sales Performance International uses online curriculum and technology to facilitate their training and development programs.  

There are literally hundreds of other places to seek out sales training in any area, whether it be based on a certain part of the sales process, or even based on industry.  

Outside Sales Tools

Every salesperson is interested in being more productive. And, so should each company. There are many tools out there that will help make various parts of the job easier… from mapping to CRMs, sales tracking and everything else. Here are some resources to take a look at for various sales tools:

1. Spotio has various software tracking tools (sales territory mapping, sales tracking, lead management, field sales, territory management, canvassing, customer mapping, sales rep tracking, and outside sales tracking) that will keep tabs on all the different things that you would want to keep an eye on, making key data and metrics available to you with a click rather than someone having to keep track of it all on their own.

2. Sales Hacker provided a list in February of this year of over 160 sales tools that I found to be very comprehensive, covering 11 different areas:

Account-based Sales & Marketing
Communication / Conferencing
Content Sharing & Management
Contract Lifecycle Management
Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Systems
Email Management
Lead Generation, Productivity, Prospecting
Performance Management
Sales & Market Intelligence
Search Engine Optimization

3. LinkedIn is primarily meant to be used as a networking site. Today, salespeople use this as a way to expand their footprint, develop leads, and ultimately create new sales. Can be a very effective networking and recruiting tool. It is also a great tool to do some research on a prospect before you contact them.

4. Profit Story is a tool that will help you calculate margins on proposals pretty easily. It is driven by profit-based metrics.

5. CamCard lets you take a picture of a business card and automatically saves the information to your contacts. Knowing that business people – especially outside salespeople – tend to collect many business cards, this is especially useful.

6. Doc Scan lets you snap a picture on your smartphone of important documents and generates a PDF for you.  

7. DocuSign is an e-signature service that allows you to get the signature no matter where you are.

8. Dragon is a note taking app that will transcribe what you say into notes if you would rather not use the texting method to do so.


Outside sales is a very broad topic, and it’s impossible to cover everything in one article. However, the objective of this piece was to draw some attention to some key areas that will raise or lower the bottom line results in your organization and team.  

From getting you sales team organized to equipping them with the tools to make them as pro productive as possible; all of these things require due diligence to ensure you are “stacking the deck” in your favor. Best of luck in your endeavors!


Questions or comments? Contact SPOTIO at or comment below.

SPOTIO is the #1 field sales acceleration and performance management software that will increase revenue, maximize profitability, and boost sales productivity.

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